Lingua Ignota, Live at Union Transfer Philadelphia, PA December 15, 2022 8:30 pm
Concert review by Bob Turri
We arrived a half hour early or so on a rainy, dreary Thursday night in Philadelphia. Lingua Ignota, the enigmatic singer/multi-instrumentalist was scheduled to play two sets. In some ways a perfectly fitting scenario as to what we were about to experience. Lingua Ignota’s most recent album, Sinner Get Ready is a stunner of an album. Using central Pennsylvania as a backdrop, it evokes an emotional sound with religious overtones and conflicting emotions. I first read about Lingua Ignota in Prog Magazine. The reviewer mentioned some of the Pennsylvania references, wondering why an artist like this would choose to live there, but also ended the review by saying you should at least listen to the album once. This piqued my interest, and I ordered the album directly from her website. Her voice is somewhat Nico-esque but the emotional delivery and range is what hooked me. There is almost a reverent quality to her sound steeped in dark mysticism.
Union Transfer was the Spaghetti Warehouse prior to being turned into one of Philadelphia’s hippest musical nightspots. Because of the cavernous nature of the venue, the sound quality has been questionable in the past, but on this night, there was only a piano in the center of the stage with one spotlight on it. An email was sent on the day of the show letting attendees know the show would start on time. Not much after 8:30 the lights went dim, my eyes focused on the stage waiting for Lingua Ignota’s entrance. Much to my surprise a lone light shaped like a candlestick with a beaming almost fluorescent light at the top appeared in the middle of the floor and there was Lingua Ignota breaking into her first song, sung a cappella, which sounded like an African-American spiritual.
After finishing she quietly moved through the crowd and entered the stage, sat at her piano and started playing. The piano strings had been treated with metal objects and chains which gave a somewhat dissonant percussive sound as she struck the keys. She played a number of songs, mostly new, as far as I could tell, and went from one song to the other. The audience, mostly made of art school graduates or attendees, with some older folks thrown in to boot, was mostly transfixed throughout the first set and barely clapped, yelled or said anything. Lingua Ignota was completely silent except for her singing and piano playing. She ended the first set with a magnificent version of the Gavin Bryar song ìJesusí Blood Never Failed Me Yetî, and left the stage.
After a short break the second set began. This was different using taped music, piano, additional vocals, and possibly synthesizers, holding court utilizing the candle stick beaming lights, adjusting them now and again, and singing her head off, although her voice sounded like it might need a rest as she has been on tour for a while. There is a somewhat perplexing quality to her stage show and visuals. The projection screen throughout the second set consisted of Christian evangelical gatherings, spontaneous baptisms, people I’m guessing speaking in tongues, and evangelical preachers in a constant loop.
Her lyrics dive into religious topics and icons such as Jesus Christ, Satan, blood, the body, and the sacraments. It almost felt at times like being at a church service, but it was difficult to discern what the sermon was. Anti-Christian, pro-spirituality, or just a commentary on how religion can either guide or misguide people. It’s difficult to say but the way the music, singing and lyrics are presented, in such an emotional heartfelt way its hard not to get caught up in this.
In the same email that told everyone to get to the show on time it mentioned that Lingua Ignota was considering dropping her stage moniker and using her real name, Kristin Hayter. I think this would be a good idea as the Lingua Ignota persona may have reached a limit and it would be very interesting to see what this dynamic performer and singer might do next. The second set ended with an encore of the Dolly Parton song, “Jolene.” Again, her beautiful voice, expressed in many different octaves was captivating. The crowd during the end of the second set started to wake up, catcalls, whistles, and yelps began to be heard, and Ms. Hayter thanked the Philly contingent and said this time around was much better than the last visit. It’s tough to shake off our demons, but if there is one artist worth watching, you might want to tune in.
Welcome Back My Friends: The Return of Emerson, Lake and Palmer 50th Anniversary Tour Penn’s Peak, Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania November 20, 2022 Concert Review By Bob Turri
Having never seen Emerson, Lake and Palmer during their peak of popularity in the 70s, I jumped at an opportunity to see Carl Palmer billed with Emerson and Lake holographically on a special tour. Carl Palmer is one of the greatest rock drummers still playing today. At 72 years of age my mouth dropped for most of the concert watching his polyrhythmic attacks take place. The show I witnessed was at Penn’s Peak, a really nice venue in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. For those of you who have never been there or maybe never been to PA, Jim Thorpe is a mountainous northeast Pennsylvania town, known today for numerous shops and tourists from New York and elsewhere coming to enjoy a small-town vibe in an idyllic setting. There are nature trails and mountains everywhere. The town has an extensive history like a lot of northeastern Pennsylvania towns but now mostly relies on the tourist trade and small business owners.
Penn’s Peak, the concert venue, sits high on a mountaintop, hence its name, and has an interior wooden structure that reminds one of being in huge log cabin. The show was scheduled for 8 pm and looking around the crowd was mostly male, not surprising, but a fair number of women were in attendance as well, hopefully not against their will. The show started pretty much on time, with some interesting and funny video clips of the Simpsons, Cheers, and one other. A little humor is a good thing.
The images of Keith Emerson and Greg Lake were projected onto the screens, not holographically, but real video images, and “ELP” broke into their first song. The guitarist and bass player in Carl Palmer’s band also joined the stage and the night began. Carl Palmer played the MC as well as in my estimation one of rock’s all-time great drummers, and they played a handful of ELP songs, some quirky some consistently challenging, such as a rousing rendition of “Tarkus” for most of the evening.
Early on Carl explained as he left the drum throne after every song to address the audience, that the idea of representing Keith Emerson and Greg Lake holographically really didn’t work and instead they had decided to use live concert footage of the two performers from a Royal Albert Hall concert performance. You could tell as he reiterated a few times that this tour was very near to his heart, and he was able to evoke the memory of his bandmates in a touching way. One couldn’t help feeling at various times during the show though a feeling of being frozen in time with only one third of these three musical giants still with us.
My original interest in ELP was developed listening to the Pictures at an Exhibition album about a thousand times during my high school days. I was struck by Keith Emerson’s excellent arrangement of the Mussorgsky classic, which more than likely having never have heard the original, I was spellbound. The band didn’t play anything from that album. I was expecting this, but the rendition of “Tarkus” was stunning. Palmer’s drumming was frenetic but controlled, and he never broke a sweat! Not sure how he does it, but it might have something to do with his English blood. The two musicians who accompanied him were also excellent, and each got a chance to step out and play a solo tune on their own.
Simon Fitzpatrick was on bass and the Chapman stick. I had never seen anyone play the Chapman stick before, and I didn’t realize the range of tones and beautiful sounds that could come out of it. He played “Take a Pebble,” and it was majestic. The guitar player and vocalist, Paul Bielatowicz, also shined, and he also contributed an Emerson Lake and Palmer song on solo guitar. He displayed a very cool smile for most of the show which made you realize how much fun these guys were having. The bass player also had a unique style and some of his facial expressions were hilarious.
When it came down to it, the interplay between live onstage Carl Palmer and via video Keith Emerson and Greg Lake was uncanny, leaving you wondering what was this like when the three of them played together. Palmer had his moment to shine with a very interesting drum solo that utilized his entire kit, different shapes and sizes of cymbals and even at one point played his sticks, which I had never seen before! All in all, it was a master class on drums. No dry ice, no smoke, very little or no smell of pot anywhere, an incredible night for all.
Steve Hackett – Genesis Revisted – Seconds Out + More – Saint Louis, Missouri, April 26, 2022 Set 1: Clocks – The Angel of Mons, Held in the Shadows, Every Day, The Devil’s Cathedral, Shadow of the Hierophant (instrumental version) Set 2: Squonk, Carpet Crawlers, Robbery, Assault & Battery, Afterglow, Firth of Fifth, I Know What I Like, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, The Musical Box (Closing Section), Supper’s Ready, Cinema Show, Aisle of Plenty Encore: Dance on a Volcano, Drum Solo, Los Endos Players: Steve Hackett, Nad Sylvan (vocals), Rob Townsend (all things blown), Roger King (keyboards), Jonas Reingold (bass, twelve string), Craig Blundell (drums)
I wasn’t planning on attending Steve Hackett’s show here in St. Louis at the River City Casino. For one I couldn’t really afford it, and two I didn’t want to buy tickets months ago since I wasn’t sure if I’d still be
living in St. Louis. But a friend from church is a big prog fan, and I knew he was going. Monday night he told me he had a spare ticket, and he offered it to me! Well I sure as heck couldn’t turn that down. Thanks, Eric!
I haven’t been to a live concert since October 2019 when I saw Steve Hackett in Grand Rapids on his Selling England By the Pound tour (check out my review of that show). This tour features the same talented lineup. I have all of Hackett’s live albums from the past decade or so, and while I’ve only seen him in person with this current lineup, I think it’s the best he has had in the last decade of Genesis Revisited shows. Everyone plays so well together, and it’s clear they’re having a blast. They play like a proper band rather than touring musicians supporting a big name musician.
The band’s vibe together was quickly established in the short first set, which featured some excellent selections from Hackett’s solo career. If I had to pick five songs from his solo career for them to play, I couldn’t have picked a better set. “Clocks” was a great instrumental opener followed by “Held in the Shadows,” one of the best songs off Hackett’s most recent solo album, Surrender of Silence. Hackett’s vocals were so effortlessly smooth. This was followed up by a rousing rendition of “Every Day,” another classic from Spectral Mornings.
After that they played “The Devil’s Cathedral,” my favorite song off Surrender of Silence. Nad Sylvan was stellar on vocals, as he was the entire night. This song displays what this band can do when they make music together. I would love to hear an entire album of new music from this band, perhaps with Nad and Steve sharing lead vocals. The instrumental version of “Shadow of the Hierophant” followed – the greatest solo Hackett song that should’ve been a Genesis track. Genesis lost a lot when Hackett left. Sure they may have become the most popular pop rock band in the world, but they lost their soul.
After the intermission, the audience (which seemed to be pretty inebriated by this point – especially the four talkative blokes in front of me) was treated to the entirety of the Seconds Out setlist. Every song was brilliant. This band plays so well, and they do justice to the music. They take a few artistic liberties as they’ve done for several years now, but I think it adds to the sound. For instance some of the keyboard parts are either replaced or layered with Rob Townsend’s saxophone, and his saxophone replaces the flute in “Firth of Fifth.” He also plays Irish whistles on parts of “Supper’s Ready” instead of flute. In some ways these changes add to the music.
Nad Sylvan really stole the show on “Carpet Crawlers.” Vocals dominate that track, with the music taking a bit of a back seat, and Nad rose to the occasion with a phenomenal rendition. Nad sang effortlessly on every song, hitting all the high notes with ease. He sounds a little more natural singing the Peter Gabriel songs, although he sounded great on everything. “Robbery, Assault & Battery” must be a very difficult song to sing, but he did a great job. The song shows the playful storytelling side of Genesis, which still remained after Gabriel left the band. I don’t think Hackett’s band has played that song live before, or at least not in the last decade, so fans who see him every tour will get to hear some “new” material.
Since they played all of Seconds Out, there was a fair bit of overlap with the music played at the last tour, which is fine by me since I love Selling England By the Pound. “Firth of Fifth” was exquisite as always. So good that I even pulled out my earplugs. I think that guitar solo is just about the best ever, and Hackett does such a great job with it in a live setting. No one can play it like he does. Roger King is an expert with the piano intro too, something Tony Banks gave up a long time ago.
And since I mentioned the earplugs, I’ll make a quick comment about that. I always bring earplugs to concerts since I never know how loud it’s going to be. Both Hackett shows I’ve been to have been fairly well mixed with reasonable sound levels and minimal distortion, which is good since this music deserves full dynamic range instead of distorted rock crunch. With that said, it was still a bit too loud for much of the concert for my comfort, so I was taking them in and out all night. That didn’t really bother me. I probably could have left them out without permanent damage, but I’d rather be safe than sorry when it comes to my hearing. My eyesight is bad enough – I don’t need to lose my hearing too.
Like on the original live Genesis album, Hackett’s band played the ending section of “The Musical Box,” which Nad nailed on vocals. The epic “Supper’s Ready” followed that, and I’m so happy that I got to see that played live. The band performed flawlessly. The music and lyrics carried me away, as all good music should. Sadly I was drawn out of it a little bit by the perpetual yapping from one particular inebriated bloke in front of me, but I found that the earplugs actually helped drown him out, which helped me focus on the music. It’s a shame to be drawn out of those special musical moments where you really feel a connection with the band.
It’s no wonder Seconds Out is such a legendary live album. What a setlist! “Cinema Show” right after “Supper’s Ready” – it doesn’t get much better than that. The band deviated from that original setlist by adding “Aisle of Plenty” at the end of “Cinema Show.” The songs flow together, so it’s only natural to include “Aisle of Plenty,” which serves much the same purpose on Selling England as “Afterglow” does on Wind and Wuthering. It’s a cool down after an intense musical and lyrical journey.
Following that the band took their bows and left the stage to a standing ovation and thunderous roar. They were cheered for a couple minutes by the loudest encore cheer I think I’ve ever heard at a live show. It reminded me of some of the cheers I’ve heard on live prog albums recorded in Europe. It was great to hear that from an American audience in a relatively small venue. The band came back out and blew us away with “Dance on a Volcano” and “Los Endos.”
The real treat was Craig Blundell’s blistering drum solo between those two songs. Absolutely phenomenal. Drum solos can often be kind of boring, but Blundell’s solos are very… musical, if that makes sense. He grabs your attention and holds it. The speed at which he played was impressive, but he also adds in brilliant chops. It was one of my favorite parts of the evening. Even Jonas Reingold came back out on stage near the edge to watch his bandmate play. The bit of jazz-infused “Los Endos” made for an excellent final encore to a memorable musical night.
Much was made of Genesis’ final (supposedly) tour, especially their final show, which both Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett attended. I’m sure that attention was deserved, but I watched some clips on YouTube from those shows, and I’ll take Steve Hackett’s shows over the latest iteration of Genesis any day. There’s more energy, better musicians, and better vocals. The songs sound like the albums, and Hackett’s guitar is virtually unrepeatable. His tone is so unique, and his style of playing is unmatched.
Another plus is Hackett’s band is a who’s who of current prog names. I may never get to see the Flower Kings or the Tangent (Jonas Reingold), Frost* (Craig Blundell), or Nad Sylvan play his solo stuff, but I get to see them play legendary music with my favorite guitarist. It’s hard to beat that. The band also clearly enjoys what they are doing. Hackett was obviously having fun, and I saw Jonas playing air drums at one point in the show when he wasn’t playing for several seconds.
If you’ve been following Hackett’s live shows over the last decade, there may not be many surprises in this current setlist, but there doesn’t need to be. The music is phenomenal, and I’ll leave it at that. If he’s coming near you on this tour or the upcoming Foxtrot at 50 shows, definitely grab a ticket. Last night was the most fun I’ve had in a long time.
Please forgive this somewhat strange interruption here in the flow of progarchy. But, I have to express this. It’s not a review, just an expression of love.
I’ve only been listening to Anathema since 2008. In the big scheme of things, I’m an Anathema newbie, and I never knew about them when they were a death-metal band. I’ve still not explored that side of the band, and I’m fairly sure I wouldn’t understand it or what they were trying to accomplish with their early albums.
I can state with certainty, however, that I believe that every thing they’ve recorded over the last 11 years is of the highest excellence and integrity. I will admit, I wasn’t as keen on Weather Systems as I was We’re Here Because We’re Here. To me, the 2011 album is an example of a perfect album, or as perfect as things can get in this world. When I hear Anathema, I think of Rush meeting Marillion, of Arvo Peart meeting U2 (Unforgettable Fire period). We’re Here Because We’re Here hit everything just perfectly, and it did so with intensity and purpose (two of my favorite words). I’m also not a fan, generally, of music videos for single songs, but the video for “Dreaming Light” hit me very hard. It captured mystery, tragedy, and innocence so . . . well, perfectly. My oldest daughter, Gretchen, and I watched it over and over when it came out. We made up stories about it, and it became a very important part of our relationship. We’re naturally very close, but this only made us closer. It gave us a way to talk about war, abuse, and other horrific issues that must be confronted. But, of course, the video also embraces hope. Perhaps hope pervades every aspect of the song, frankly.
Weather Systems (2012), as I judged it, succeeded just as well, and. in some ways, better, until Track No. 9. Then, it all fell apart for me, really changing the complexion of the entire work of art and, to some extent, of the band. I certainly have nothing against poetry or spoken word, but, from my perspective, “Internal Landscapes” just failed. I didn’t find the story compelling, and I thought the voice of the narrator (an American, I presume, or at least a North American) mediocre. Maybe I’m just close-minded, but this really affected me. I still played the album around the house and on our very long car trips, but I grimaced every time “Internal Landscapes” came on. When PROG called Weather Systems the best album of 2012, I was just stunned. Big Big Train had earned that one!
Last week, however, Gretchen started singing a song repeatedly, and I recognized that I recognized it, but I couldn’t quite place it. She didn’t have the lyrics correct, but had interpreted them as well as she possibly could have, given that I have the CD in my office, and she’s only heard the album intermittently. After about 10 tries with different groups, she explained again, “No, daddy, it’s a back and forth, a man and a woman, and they’re in love but they’re separated.” It hit me that it had to be Anathema. I put on Untouchable, Parts I and II, and she breathed a sigh of relief. Yes, that was definitely it.
I’d already heard the soundtrack of the UNIVERSAL concert, and I enjoyed it. Hoping to encourage Gretchen, I ordered the concert video. It arrived yesterday. Let me express my view of this concert in the most succinct way I can: Wow. Just wow. I love concert DVDs, and I have quite a few of them. This, however, has to rank up near the top. It has reaffirmed everything I loved about this band, but didn’t quite understand. I’m still not a fan of “Internal Landscapes,” but it doesn’t matter. This is reality. This is myth. This is beauty. This is intensity. This is integrity. This is glory. This is music.
Once again, everything is simply perfect. The aggressiveness, the playfulness, the seriousness, the artistry, the cinematography, the personality. Everything. In. Its. Right. Place.
Thank you. Just, thank you. And, my beautiful and wondrous daughter, Gretchen, thanks you as well.